Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a couple looks at Soderbergh's newest film BUBBLE. I knew next to nothing before reading these reviews (I must admit to completely skipping the "HUGE SPOILER" segement of the second review) and now I'm very intrigued. Success or failure, Soderbergh's films are always interesting. Enjoy the reviews!
You may or may not be getting a slew of these reviews but I thought I would send in one for BUBBLE which I saw tonight at the New York Film Festival. Its Steven Soderbergh's newest film and serves as the film in-between his big budget films OCEAN'S TWELVE and THE GOOD GERMAN. Its written by Coleman Hough (FULL FRONTAL and SCHIZOPOLIS) and although it is her most mainstream film with Soderbergh, its still far away from the Danny Ocean films or even OUT OF SIGHT or THE LIMEY. If anything, it plays like a trailer park version of SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE. Its shot on HD Digital Video with non-professional actors, financed by Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment, and is apparently the first in a series of low-budget dramas Soderbergh plans to shoot around America.
The plot of the film follows three workers in an Ohio doll factory. The first half of the film feels like JUNEBUG without the rich and educated son and his wife. But this lays the groundwork for a surprisingly interesting second half. Debbie Doebereiner (apparently a real-life cashier picked from obscurity) plays Martha, a doll assember who fancies herself a caregiver to all. You know the type - cares for her dad to the point of suffocating him, gives rides to any and all workers at the factory - even though they treat her like a virtual doormat.
One of these riders is Kyle (played by another non-professional actor Dustin James Ashley) who quickly falls for the new worker in the factory - Rose. Martha notices Kyle and Martha's budding relationship and when Rose begins to ask Martha for rides around town and to babysit her daughter, well Martha notices just what Rose does to survive in this meager existence - which includes a wide variety of petty crimes. Eventually there is a murder and the true brilliance of the film is that the audience is unsure of the perpetrator until the last few minutes of the film. The way the killer is revealed comes in a brilliant but completely unassuming police interrogation scene. The scene is about as far away as you can get from LAW & ORDER in terms of style and slickness and its lack of style and slickness contribute to its believability and intensity.
BUBBLE definitely meanders for the first 40 minutes or so but the last 30 minutes are worth it - the running time of the film is only 72 minutes - and make the film a better experience than FULL FRONTAL was. Also the HD digital video is of a much better quality than FULL FRONTAL - which I found distracting to the point of frustration.
Its not Soderbergh's best film ever and probably not in his top 5 - but still damn interesting and woth seeing. Again, I won't lie, there were audience members who seemed positively dumbstruck by the film and clearly did not like it. But I did. And hey - its only 72 minutes.
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And here's another look!
Sup Mister Knowles?
Just returned home from catching Steven Soderbergh’s latest flick, BUBBLE, at the New York Film Festival. Much has been written about Soderbergh’s choice to cast the movie exclusively with locals from the small Ohio town were it was shot. Actually, the only thing I knew about BUBBLE going in was that there were no name actors and that it had something to do with a doll factory. What in many director’s hands would have been nothing more than an attention-grabbing gimmick, the use of the “non-actors” actually adds a remarkable level of authenticity and (to use a really lame, non-existent word) realness to this unsettling, hilarious, extremely moving piece of work.
The story is simple- Martha is a middle-aged, lonely, doll factory worker who cares for her elderly father. She wears denim shirts with butterflies and leaves stitched on them- you Know this woman. Martha’s “best friend” is Kyle, a twenty something stoner who she chauffeurs back and forth between the factory and his other jobs. In return he’s sortakinda nice to her. One day, a cute single mother named Rose comes to work at the doll factory and is attracted to Kyle. Some unexpected tragic business goes down which leads to plenty of awesome awkward silences and close-ups of teary blue eyes.
The characters here are beautifully realized. It’s really inspiring to see a movie that has such a profound understanding of the way actual human beings behave towards one another. Watching BUBBLE is like watching a local newspaper about a town where nothing happens come to life- it’s a movie about ordinary, sad people. People who blend in. People who you would never normally see in a movie. And this is not solely because of the use of the locals in the cast- Soderbergh is really at the top of his game here. You practically get the entire history of Martha and Kyle within the first three minutes of the movie, before more than five lines of dialogue are uttered. Soderbergh’s camera work is incredible- the opening shots of the town and of the slightly grotesque process of doll-making establish an eerie, off-centered tone that makes you feel like each characters’ fragile existence could explode at any minute. The movie is exquisitely edited, taking time to linger when it needs to, but never succumbing to that American-indie-reflective-drama syndrome where still shots of open roads or empty hallways seem to go on forever for no good reason. BUBBLE is intelligent and thoughtful but never boring.
Soderbergh’s greatest triumph here is his handling of the actors. Martha is played by Debbie Doebereiner, who we were told at the talk-back is a manager at a KFC in Ohio. She also happens to give the best female performance I’ve seen this year. This woman is astounding. ***HUGE SPOILER WARNING*** There is a scene late in the movie where she is being questioned by a detective for a crime that she claims she did not commit. She recites her story with a nervous conviction that can only come from a woman who is so inherently good that she simply cannot admit to herself that she’s done a terrible thing. When she professes her innocence in a series of pathetic whimpers, you practically want to jump into the screen and help her. You want to help her get away- you want to take her back to the point in her life when she made the decision to stay in the bubble she lives in and tell her get out while she still can. It’s a testament to Doebereiner’s performance that you know full well that Martha’s life was probably fucked from the get go, and nothing anybody could’ve done would’ve helped her. ***SPOILERS OVER***
All the other actors are equally wonderful. Dustin James Ashley as Kyle and Misty Dawn Wilkins as Rose give unique, nuanced performances. When, during an awkward conversation with Kyle, Rose asks “So, do you like to hang around tattoo parlors?” you can practically see her five years later on Judge Judy, suing some dude for the back child support she’ll use to take her G.E.D. exam and buy a dimebag.
The audience didn’t seem all that into the movie. A couple people booed when it ended (it has an abrupt, fairly shocking ending- perfectly scored by Robert Pollard.) The talk-back after the movie was with screenwriter Coleman Hough (who also wrote the far inferior FULL FRONTAL) and a famous female film critic. Having to suffer through the grating phoniness of the film critic seemed particularly offensive after seeing such a sincere, observant movie. She spoke demeaningly about the use of the “non-actors,” which I thought was hilarious since they seemed like pretty great actors to me. Just because they’re not famous yet doesn’t mean they’re not actors. When asked why any of the actors weren’t at the talk back, the ladies just seemed kind of embarrassed and said that Dustin Ashley was in the audience and should come on down. He was sitting in the last row of the balcony and by the time he made his way to the stage the talk back was over. He popped his head out from behind the curtain but no one noticed because he blended in with everyone else. Thank God there are directors like Steven Soderbergh who have enough insight and compassion to make movies about the people that no one else seems to notice.